Friday, October 29, 2010

Standing up for submission

I was recently reflecting on a conversation with a dear friend. The sweet lady is, to put it mildly, a woman with a full life. She has a husband, three girls, a home that is often used for hospitality, she leads a ladies' Bible study, sits on several committees, and works to disciple younger ladies. On top of all this, she is a world-class nurse who has, since she became a mother, kept up her certification and still puts in a few shifts and teaching stints a month.

In the midst of all this, her husband asked her to homeschool their children. Homeschooling had never really been her personal plan or preference, and she didn't have much "spare" time to begin with. Still, this was her husband's desire for her and for her children, so she submitted, and began to make plans and preparations to embark on this grand task. Naturally, people wanted to know why. Soon friends, family, the teachers and parents at her oldest daughter's school were curious why a seemingly reasonable and busy woman would pull her daughter from a public school and take over her education. At first, while she was still wrestling her heart into a joyful submission, she recited all the excellent and sound reasons her husband had laid out before her.

However, as she worked to bring her heart in line with that of her husband's, she realized that reasons, good though they were, were not the reason why she was homeschooling her husband. She was doing it because it was what her husband, her head, had asked of her. She was convicted to speak the truth, to say what would surely seem like looniness added to eccentricity when people asked her why. Certainly, one would hope that the conversation would go like this:

"What made you decide to homeschool?"
"My husband thinks it is best for our family and I am submitting to him."
"That is wonderful! Why does your husband think this is the best course for your family?"

She could then expound on the well-thought out points he had laid before her, leading to a stimulating and respectful conversation. In her heart, though, she knows that the conversation is more likely to go like this:

"What made you decide to homeschool?"
"My husband thinks it is best for our family and I am submitting to him."
"Are you crazy? You are so busy! Don't you realize that you will have to give up all your free time and probably even your job to do this? What kind of husband would make you do that? Why don't you stand up for yourself? Just because he says so, doesn't mean you have to do it. Haven't you ever heard of the feminist movement?"

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior." - Ephesians 5:22-23

There is nothing popular or pretty about the idea of wifely submission in our culture. The very idea that a woman would sacrifice her own desires, plans, goals, and energy in favor of her husband's will evokes images of victimization. The submissive woman must, by her very nature, be one who is worn down, passive, full of suppressed, sublimated fury and despair. Real women make up their own minds. They pursue their own dreams. They are doing it, whatever it may be, for themselves. As women of God's word, we are, for the most part, happy to pooh-pooh feminism and reclaim godly submission as a model of feminine strength, not suffering. Of course, we mostly desire to do this in our own circles when our efforts are met with encouragement, smiles, and nodded heads.

The question becomes, then, are we willing to stand up for submission before the world. Are we willing to boldly state with our lives AND our words that we are submitting to our husbands to the glory of God and the sanctification of our hearts? When we are asked, "Why are you doing that," will our response be first that we are submitting to our husbands and second the sensible reasons why?